I started playing the cello at the age of 7 and very quickly realised that cello was going to be a very important part of my life.
During my high school years, I obtained my Associate of Music Australia (A.Mus.A.) qualification and also became heavily involved in the orchestras run by Melbourne Youth Music (M.Y.M.), spending a year each in Margaret Sutherland Strings, Percy Grainger Youth Orchestra and Melbourne Youth Orchestra. Following this, I was then accepted into the Chamber Strings of Melbourne, where I benefited from the vast knowledge and experience of the conductor, Christopher Martin (formerly Head of Strings at the University of Melbourne). I enjoyed and greatly benefited, musically and technically, from my exposure to the orchestral repertoire to which I was exposed but I didn't discover my true music passion, chamber music, until I started tertiary studies.
Initially, I undertook my studies at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and, later, at the Victorian College of the Arts (V.C.A.). It was during my years at V.C.A. that I developed my love of chamber music, an area of performance I vigorously pursue. During this period I was also involved with many of the composition students, both in performing their works and consulting with them about the specifics of my instrument during the development stages of their works. This provided me with exposure to a broad range of music styles and techniques.
I started teaching quite by accident while I was still at high school and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Since getting started, I have not looked back and I now maintain a dynamic combination of teaching and performance.
- My fundamental philosophy is "the why is as important as the how." As we all know, when learning any new skill, be it playing an instrument or driving a car or even touch-typing, everything will feel awkward and unnatural. If, during practice sessions between lessons, all a student has to work with is a brief and subjective memory of a "monkey see, monkey do" type demonstration, it is all too easy to veer off track, making practice sessions unproductive at best, demoralising and destructive at worst. However, when a student understands the purpose behind the technique, this provides them firstly with a guide for what they want to achieve, and secondly it provides a finite goal to work towards, a direct line of work to pursue between lessons.
- I aim to provide students with simple steps and checks they can replicate at home to ensure they are on the right track between lessons without having to rely on the teacher's monitoring.
- I place a high priority on having my students understand the importance of:
- correct posture when playing and, equally importantly, how poor posture impacts on mental and physical performance in all our day-to-day activities
- adopting natural hand, arm, shoulder and back shapes as much as possible
- the mechanics involved in playing the cello, thereby enabling them to maximise, in the short- and long-term, what is achieved in practice sessions
- I stress the importance and encourage (not pressure!) my students to perform as often as possible in a variety of different situations as a means of developing not only their music performance skills but also their confidence and competence in other areas of formal presentation, such as class presentations, debating, job interviews and general assertive interaction with their peers and colleagues.
I encourage parents to be actively involved in their children's music education by attending several lessons each term so that they can productively participate in home practice sessions. In a social environment that is becoming geared more and more towards instant gratification, learning a musical instrument can be a daunting experience for many children once they-and their parents! - realise that a commitment to daily practice is necessary in order to progress. Practising for even half an hour can be very isolating and can seem interminable to a small - and even not-so-small - child. So, even if parents have had no previous music experience, their interest and involvement are very important factors in determining whether their children will continue with their instrumental studies. No matter how good the teacher is, if there is little or no parental involvement, the child's interest and enthusiasm will very soon dwindle.
I have discovered over the last few years that the commonly-held belief that adults do not learn as fast or as well as children is a myth....and recent research supports my observations! My adult students never cease to surprise me in how quickly, enthusiastically and soundly they develop new and challenging skills. I have found that, with their extensive life experience, they have a greater capacity for relating new skills to those they already have in other areas.
Many of my adult students report secondary benefits in learning cello: they tell me that, despite their hectic lifestyles, they always make time for their practice and lessons due to the calming influence of music in their chaotic environment.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so, if you've always wanted to play the cello, there is no time like the present!